How Can Virtual Exercises Cut the Time of Your Graduate Assessment Centres?

Assessment centres can be shorter and more efficient if your candidates undertake the individual case study exercises virtually in advance. How?

How Can Virtual Exercises Cut the Time of Your Graduate Assessment Centres?

4 Jan 2019 by  Matti Jaakola

If you’ve recently completed your annual graduate recruitment cycle, you’re probably already thinking about how to improve the process next year. One area worth focusing on is your assessment centre. This is likely to comprise group activities and individual exercises such as a case study presentation. What if you could cut the cost and improve the efficiency of your assessment centre experience—and still recruit high quality graduates?

A typical assessment centre might last a full day and have a 60 percent pass rate. But there’s no real reason why candidates need to complete individual case study-based exercises on the day. Technology now allows you to easily deliver these online, and you could significantly reduce the duration of your assessment centre if you run these individual exercises in advance. You can then concentrate your assessment centre time on group-related activities.

Group activities at an assessment centre typically aim to evaluate a candidate’s social skills and how they interact with others. Individual case study-related exercises are usually designed to assess a candidate’s ability to analyze information, interpret data, draw conclusions, make decisions and present recommendations. In other words, they provide a valuable opportunity to assess job-relevant behaviours. But the truth is that you don’t have to do this ‘live’ at your assessment centre. You can assess these aspects just as effectively if your candidates video themselves and send you their responses.

Your candidates would undoubtedly prefer this approach. It is far less intimidating for them to film themselves at home, rather than standing nervously in front of a panel of judgmental managers. Arguably, a virtually-delivered case study provides a more realistic simulation of working life in today’s organizations, where virtual working and virtual presentations are increasingly common. The candidate can be given information and content to analyse on their preferred device (PC, laptop, tablet), via an underpinning assessment platform. The content can be tailored to suit the specific role for which you’re recruiting. The candidates can be given a certain amount of time to read through and process the information. After an agreed time, their device will start recording and the candidate can present their analysis and recommendations, just as they would at an assessment centre. At the end of the recording, the candidate could be given a chance to re-submit their answer if they are not happy with their first responses (something they could never do face-to-face), and their recordings would be automatically uploaded onto the assessment platform for review.

At this stage, you’re essentially looking to test the way a candidate thinks. How have they coped with the information they’ve been given? Have they remained calm? Can they analyse specific details and make decisions? Everything that you’d test for through the assessment centre could also be measured in advance through ‘virtual assessment’. You can also use your existing case study and exercise materials for this, so you don’t have to change anything or create new content. This approach can be used beyond graduate recruitment, and applied when selecting for management and professional roles.

If your candidates are able in advance to fully demonstrate that they have the skills and values to succeed in your organization, the goal of your assessment centre can be modified. Effectively, it can become a final ‘rubber stamp’ in your selection process, rather than an additional battery of tests. Your assessment centre should simply confirm that your candidates can work well with others and fit into your team. As a result, the pass rate should be closer to 90 percent (not 60 percent).

Using intelligent ratings

Each candidate’s video responses will still need to be rated. So you might ask how does this actually save you time? The answer is that today’s video assessment platforms can utilise Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help recruiters analyze certain aspects of a candidate’s responses.

This sounds like science fiction but the audio from a candidate’s response can be transcribed, using real-time speech recognition, and analysed to check for aspects such as clarity of speech and proficiency in English language. The video elements can be analysed by facial recognition and emotion-tracking software. All of this can be undertaken almost instantly.

The results of this analysis help to paint a fuller picture of each candidate. But any final selection decision is still made by a recruiter. AI simply provides additional information which can help recruiters to make quicker and more objective decisions.

A best practice process

In an ideal graduate recruitment scenario, a candidate would initially go through a realistic job preview, or some type of job navigator, to identify for themselves which of your roles will suit them best. After completing a short application form, suitable candidates would be invited to take online assessments and a video interview. These steps reduce the number of hoops that your candidates have to jump through but they still ensure that rich, job-relevant assessment data is collected on each candidate.

Your virtual case study exercises could then be sent to your shortlisted candidates, in advance of your actual assessment centre. These could provide a further sift in your selection process. Doing this would not only enable you to deliver shorter assessment centres, it could potentially cut the number of centres you need to run by around one third. Your centres would also have a better conversion rate—and you’d maximize the time of your assessors.

The future of recruitment will increasingly involve off-site, virtual assessments, streamlined seamlessly through technology. If you’re looking to improve your graduate selection process, why not start here?

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Matti Jaakola

Matti Jaakkola is a senior consultant for Aon’s Assessment Solutions, specialising in optimising volume graduate recruitment processes. Aon’s Assessment Solutions undertake 30 million assessments each year in 90 countries and 40 languages.

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